Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
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Saying "it's getting difficult to practice against each other," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall guided his team through a Tuesday morning practice session, two days before the team's final scheduled scrimmage of camp.
"They're starting to not like each other very much," said Mendenhall after practice. "Coaches and players, which is about typical for this time of year, so...(we're) trying to make it through one more scrimmage before we break up into scout teams."
Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman echoed the head coach's feelings. "The guys are trying so hard," said Doman. "You can see it, you can feel it. It's a little bit out of hand."
With no hitting or tackling allowed, a pair of players were sent either to the sidelines or the locker room for ending up on the wrong side of Mendenhall's line of contact demarcation.
"Just not playing within the practice rules for today," said Mendenhall in explaining the sit-downs. "There are grudges that build up against certain guys...right now, an accumulation of things is kind of leading to blow-ups here and there."
"This is just about the time period (in camp)... where that 'tipping point' is, I guess."
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy visited the doctors early Tuesday and was given full camp clearance after off-season shoulder surgery had limited his practice activities. Van Noy says he feels totally recovered and ready to roll.
"Oh yeah, 100%...mentally and physically," said Van Noy after practice. "Ready for the season."
"I think I can," said Van Noy when asked if he thinks he can hit the ground running now that he has been cleared, "but in the ultimate goal, we're going to ease into it. I think we're going to slowly process the reps, slowly get back to things. I don't think we're going to just jump in at 100% and get the ball rolling, even though that's what I want."
Van Noy said he plans to play in the Thursday scrimmage, but noted that his reps will likely be limited and "coaches will be watching carefully."
The Nagurski and Lombardi Award candidate said he has just now reached the six-month mark of his recovery from surgery, calling the milestone "a new beginning."
"It was a big accomplishment to get to this (time)," Van Noy said. "(There was) a lot of frustration going up to this point, so I'm happy to be here and ready to go."
Another positive development was the return of three offensive linemen to their spots with with first string. Left tackle Ryker Mathews (neck), right guard Brock Stringham (sprained ankle) and right tackle Braden Brown (sprained ankle) had all missed time recently, but the trio was back today, working with center Blair Tushaus and left guard Braden Hansen, who I saw working with the first team for the first time in camp.
Tushaus has been with the "ones" since camp began, as Houston Reynolds has been in and out with shin soreness. Of Tushaus, Mendenhall said "he has had a nice camp so far; still battling (with Reynolds), but if you were to say today, that's who it would be (starting at center)."
Today's second-string O-line had Michael Yeck, Terrance Alletto, Houston Reynolds, Manaaki Vaitai and Famika Anae going left to right.
I asked Doman about the 2012 playing status of QB Taysom Hill and WR Dylan Collie, as both have had nice camps, yet the decision to play or sit either player had remained a question.
Doman on Hill:
"We're exploring every option for him right now, to see if there are ways he can help us. If we find a way that he can add great value in situational football and special teams-wise, we'll use him."
As to when the decision will be made on Hill's status for this season, Doman said "as soon as we start preparing for a game plan, we'll make those decisions."
Doman on Collie:
"He's gonna play; he's in the rotation with the first group right now...he's just a little feisty fighter. He has come out here and competed hard, and I don't know that we can go through the season without him."
In other personnel notes, Mendenhall said WRs Cody Hoffman and JD Falslev would comprise the no. 1 kickoff return tandem, while Falslev would be the first-string punt returner. Alex Kuresa, Joe Sampson, Mike Hague and Collie are among others who have seen some kickoff return work, while Kuresa, Collie and Cody Raymond are in the backup punt return mix, with Kuresa getting reps behind Falslev today.
A couple of players have come off the 105-man camp roster, with the news that OL Walter Kahaiali'i will have knee surgery and OL Fono Vakalahi will be transferring.
A senior, Kahaiali'i will end his playing career with the surgery, but he intends to remain with the program as a student assistant. Vakalahi had missed all but the opening day of camp practices.
Taking the pair's place on the 105 are DB Jacob Hannemann, who was slated to join the 123-man roster with the start of classes, and WR Taggart Krueger.
WR Mitch Mathews, who yesterday was identified by Mendenhall as the likely fourth receiver after Hoffman, Ross Apo and Falslev, sat out Tuesday's practice with soreness related to a previous clavicle injury. A CT scan was performed Tuesday morning, and Mathews was kept out as a precaution.
RB Jamaal Williams had an ankle rolled; he was being evaluated after practice.
You can hear coaches Mendenhall and Doman, along with Van Noy and QB Riley Nelson, in "Cougar Cuts," above left. Today's "Shep Talk" features Jason Shepherd with OL Houston Reynolds.
Tuesday's practice had the players in helmets and shoulder pads. Tomorrow will be the second-to-last day of BYU's "two-a-days," followed by Thursday's fully-padded scrimmage at the stadium.